GM Racers Eye End of Tough Three-Race Stretch at Gateway Competitive Pro Stock Class Has 8 Different Winners Through First 11 Races MADISON, Ill., June 20, 2006 - A tough, consecutive three-race stretch concludes this weekend for racers on the...
GM Racers Eye End of Tough Three-Race Stretch at Gateway Competitive Pro Stock Class Has 8 Different Winners Through First 11 Races
MADISON, Ill., June 20, 2006 - A tough, consecutive three-race stretch concludes this weekend for racers on the 23-race NHRA POWERade circuit with a stop at Gateway International Raceway for the 10th annual O'Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals. After a race two weeks ago at Chicago and one this past weekend at Englishtown, the annual stop at the quarter-mile strip just east of St. Louis is the 12th event on the schedule and an unofficial halfway point to the season.
Amazingly, there have been eight different winners through the first 11 races in the ultra-competitive Pro Stock class as GM racers Jason Line, Kurt Johnson and Dave Connolly have been the only drivers to double up on wins. Line was the latest addition to this group, taking his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO to the winner's circle for the third straight year at Englishtown and matching his earlier win in April at Bristol. It was the 10th career win for the 2004 NHRA Rookie of the Year and moves him into second place in the POWERade points standings, just 37 points behind Summit Racing Pontiac teammate Greg Anderson.
"The class has evened up a lot this year and [Englishtown] was a good win for the team - a nice morale boost heading into the hot summer months," said Line. "It appears we have a good hot-weather car so I'm looking forward to going to St. Louis. I'm more excited now about going there than I was last week. The car was great and hopefully this indicates we have a good hot-weather tune-up."
"Any time you can win gives you momentum and confidence heading down the stretch. Parity in Pro Stock is much closer than it's been in years past, and the fans like that. Everybody has about the same power, everybody's making good runs, and there are a lot of sharp people out here doing this. To be able to win anytime is a big deal, but each time I win it's an even bigger deal because I realize how hard it is to get here. You learn to enjoy it a little more as time goes on."
Three-time defending Pro Stock champ Anderson, a winner at the season-opening race at Pomona, is coming off a rare first-round loss at Englishtown and looks to join the group of two-time winners this weekend at Gateway.
"The good thing about it is we get to race next week," said Anderson after his performance at Englishtown. "Luckily we have a race and maybe we can rectify both ends of where we need to improve - driver and car - and make them both faster. Our goal next week is to win a race and give Summit Racing, Pontiac and Ken Black something they can be proud of."
"There's no question the competition level has risen this year, just like it did last year. Now it comes down to execution, who executes better during the right qualifying session and through Sunday. You feel like you have to run perfect every time out, and to be honest, we haven't been perfect every time out and that's why we haven't won more. There's no margin for error in this class. If you're going to slip up just a little bit, you're going to lose."
Jim Yates has his Sea Ray Boats Pontiac GTO third in the Pro Stock points standings, 54 points behind the second-place Line after a win (Columbus) and runner-up finish (Houston).
"As competitive as Pro Stock is right now, and as tough as the teams that are out there, it feels great to be back in the mix," said Yates after his win at Columbus. "The class has moved so far forward from where it used to be in terms of parity that it's nice to be in the top group of cars. It makes us really confident that we made the right decisions over the winter to get us into this position, and now what we need to do is take advantage of those decisions, actually execute the program and go out and perform to our potential."
Connolly has made up a lot of ground in the points standings in the last six weeks, and the Ohio native enters the NHRA Midwest Nationals fourth place in Pro Stock points on the strength of two wins in May (Atlanta, Topeka) in four final-round appearances this season.
"We have a good hot-track racecar," said Connolly, "and considering what we're heading into, that's a good sign. [Englishtown] grouped up a bunch of us, and we were able to make up some rounds on Greg, so that should make this year pretty exciting. It's going down to the wire and hopefully our Chevrolet is one of those cars that will be in it."
At Englishtown, Summit Racing Pontiac driver Jason Line became the third NHRA Pro Stock driver this season to capture multiple victories in the factory hot rod category, joining fellow GM racers Kurt Johnson and Dave Connolly. The 37-year-old Line celebrated his first Father's Day race as a father (son Jack was born in January) with his second win of the season by defeating Connolly in an all-GM final round.
Line's win at Englishtown was the sixth victory this year for a Pro Stock competitor in a Pontiac GTO.
Chevy drivers Kurt Johnson and Dave Connolly also have multiple wins this season, Johnson driving his ACDelco Chevy Cobalt to the winner's circle at Las Vegas and Chicago, and Connolly in the Skull Gear Chevy Cobalt the first to double up with wins at Atlanta and Topeka.
New Jersey native Frank Manzo was also a winner last week at Englishtown, driving his Lucas Oil Products Chevy Monte Carlo to the winner's circle in the Top Alcohol Funny Car category to pick up his 63rd career victory.
The most recent tally of the NHRA Manufacturer's Cup standings show Pontiac leading with 2,000 points. Chevrolet is in second place in the Manufacturer's Cup standings with 1,460 points and Dodge is third with 1,060 points.
Although with just a season-opening win at Pomona, three-time Pro Stock champ Anderson still has a 37-point lead over his teammate Line, and the Minnesota native claimed the 22nd annual NHRA King Demon Crown at Chicago earlier this month and its $50,000 winner's check. The $145,000 King Demon Crown showcases the eight best Pro Stock qualifiers during a 23-race span between the 2005 CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals in Joliet, Ill., and 2006 O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka. Anderson defeated his teammate Line with an eye-popping 6.620 elapsed time in the final, the quickest pass ever made in the class.
With 392 career round wins, Pontiac GTO driver Jim Yates is just 8 shy of his 400th career round win. Among active Pro Stock competitors, only Warren Johnson (825) and Kurt Johnson (434) have more career round wins.
Greg Anderson holds the Gateway Int'l Raceway Pro Stock track e.t. record set in 2004 in a Pontiac at 6.702 seconds.
Warren Johnson, Ron Krisher, and Kurt Johnson have the most wins by an NHRA Pro Stock competitor at Gateway, each with two wins apiece. Among current Pontiac GTO drivers, Warren Johnson has two wins (1997, 2001), and Greg Anderson (2004) and Jim Yates (1999) both have one. Among Chevy Cobalt drivers, Kurt Johnson is the defending O'Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals Pro Stock champ and has won at Gateway twice (1998, 2005). Ron Krisher also has two wins at Gateway (2000, 2003).
Anderson has led the Pro Stock category since the season-opening Winternationals at Pomona and has 763 points. Jason Line (Pontiac) is in second place with 726 points, Jim Yates (Pontiac) is third with 672 points, Dave Connolly (Chevrolet) is fourth with 657 points and Kurt Johnson (Chevrolet) is fifth with 639 points. Mike Edwards (Pontiac) is in sixth place with 569 points, Erica Enders (Chevrolet) is eighth with 560 points, and Warren Johnson (Pontiac) is ninth with 503 points.
In Funny Car, Tony Bartone captured his first career No. 1 qualifier at Englishtown with an elapsed time of 4.787 seconds at 324.76 mph in his Lucas Oil Products Chevy Monte Carlo. The New York native advanced to the semifinals before losing to defending Funny Car champ Gary Scelzi.
In national events this year, Chevy Monte Carlo drivers have captured four victories (Phoenix, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Columbus), Dodge has five wins and Ford has two.
Among current Chevy Monte Carlo Funny Car drivers, Tony Pedregon has a win (2001) and a runner-up (1999) at Gateway Int'l Raceway. Del Worsham also has a win (2003), and Cruz Pedregon was runner-up in 1997 and Tommy Johnson Jr. had a runner-up finish in 2001. Tim Wilkerson was runner-up last year to event winner Ron Capps.
In the Funny Car standings, Tony Pedregon is in fifth place in a Chevy Monte Carlo with 616 points. Tommy Johnson Jr. is in sixth place in a Monte Carlo with 608 points, Del Worsham is ninth in a Monte Carlo with 502 points and Cruz Pedregon is 10th in a Monte Carlo with 498 points. Ron Capps is in first place with 944 points.
Qualifying highlights can be seen on ESPN2 on Saturday, June 24, beginning at 10 p.m. Eastern. Final eliminations from Gateway International Raceway can also be seen on ESPN2 on Sunday, June 25, starting at 10 p.m. Eastern.